AENEA: Austria’s best-kept secret

Salzburg is an unlikely place to travel to discover new jewellery, but this medieval city is home to a budding new brand like no other.

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Aenea Sarpa ring

Founded in 2013 by Costán Eghiazarian, AENEA was a brand born out of need. As the son of a well-known jeweller, Costán was constantly being asked to help friends make engagement rings. Fortunately, he was well positioned to help: his father has been producing high-end jewels for more than 50 years.

“In reality, I never wanted to go into the jewellery business as I had big shoes to fill,” says Costán. “I grew up playing with Cartier, Fabergé and Van Cleef & Arpels pieces from the 1920s as well as watching my father create jewels. But I never saw myself as a jeweller – I studied business and then marketing.”

The tipping point came when Costán felt frustrated by a request and decided to make the jewellery world a fairer place. “A gay couple who are friends of mine wanted to get married and there was nothing on the market for them,” he explains. 

Papi, as he refers to his father, produced Costán’s first series of unisex jewellery, which is distinctly inclusive in its approach, featuring mix-and-match, diamond-set male and female symbols. After his initial enthusiastic impulse, Costán realised his idea needed tweaking to appeal to a wider audience. Enter Birgit Tomka, university friend and marketing specialist, who helped refine the strategy.

From AENEA’s Candy collection, a 4.03-carat ruby is surrounded by 0.94 carats of white diamonds set into platinum and yellow gold (€185,000). 

Today, in Salzburg’s quaint commercial quarter, Goldgasse 15 (gold street) is home to the AENEA Atelier. AENEA creates low-key but finely detailed jewels often featuring unusual stones, ideal for everyday wear. “Grandma’s jewellery is nice, but do you want to wear it with jeans?” asks Costán. Lidwine Clary und Aldringen joined the firm in 2013 completing the trio. She brings her knowledge of international luxury to the brand and flashes her sapphire AENEA engagement ring with pride.

Thanks to Costán’s unparalleled access to production, today the company has a wide range of styles and some 600 jewels in stock, made in the workshop of his father. Entering the AENEA Atelier is very much like visiting an old family friend. The day I was there, cousins dropped in, babies were hugged and uncles waved as they walked past the shop front. But while AENEA may be rooted in historic Salzburg, the team travels the world with its trunk shows. 

For gem connoisseurs, AENEA presents this facetted 17.42 carat beryl emerald drop from the Candy Collection, with an additional 1.46 carats of white diamonds set in platinum and silver (POA). 

What sets AENEA apart is a universal understanding of jewellery, from the stones to production processes. This translates into jewels for those who appreciate the subtleness of, say, a long, gently facetted emerald beryl drop that fades from clear crystal to emerald intensity, above, or a flourescent diamond that flashes blue in the sunlight, below.

A 3.75-carat conch pearl is set en tremblant inside a Calla Lily by AENEA, with pink diamonds (0.39 carats), white diamonds (1.64 carats), pink sapphires (3.02 carats) and tsavorites in white and pink gold and palladium (POA).

Sarpa, which means serpent in Latin, is a core collection. Using the meandering form of the animal to create intricate writhing shapes, prongs become the flattened heads of a snake, intertwined serpents are set with luscious coloured gems, and a snake stretches out elegantly to form diamond-dusted hoop earrings. 

A 8.32-carat emerald shines out from this Sarpa ring by AENEA. The shank is formed of diamond-set (0.83 carats) snakes and made of platinum, black rhodium-plated silver and yellow gold (POA).

The Candy range celebrates the simple beauty of the stone, with minimum adornment. Aquamarine is matched with pink tourmaline; a lavender spinel complements a pinkish kunzite. Unusual dusky pink and deep-red tourmalines and summer-sky blue sapphires make for jewels with a very personal take on luxury. The fire of a Padparadscha sapphire is cooled by the serene blue of an aquamarine in a pendant and matching earrings.

AENEA Candy earrings with 13.66 carats of spinels and two kunzite drops totalling 52.7 carats, surrounded by pink sapphires and diamonds set in pink and yellow gold (€25,000).

Like any good family jeweller, AENEA has its clients’ interest at heart, particularly when it comes to engagement rings, and offers some unexpected choices. Costán shows me a brilliant-cut diamond with strong flourescence.

“I believe that diamonds with natural flourescence are incredibly beautiful as they really shine out and have an enigmatic colour-change element to them. But as they are out of fashion, they are more affordable than other diamonds, so I like to advise my clients about these lesser-known gems.”

Likewise, Costán, with an openness not characteristic of the diamond engagement ring business, is happy to point out a flaw in 3-carat diamond ring. “As the flaw is white and at the corner, we covered it with a claw, meaning you can get a really big stone for a great price.”

AENEA brings fun to every-day jewels with these chunky Sarpa cocktail rings made in palladium, set with (left and right) pink amethyst and pink topaz (€1,950 each).

And it’s not just about big price tags. “We really wanted to make fine jewellery approachable for a younger generation by making jewels that you can wear every day. We do this by using palladium, which is stronger and lighter than silver but less expensive than gold, and choosing interesting stones like paler amethysts, topaz and citrine.” The Sarpa rings, above, give a big cocktail ring look, and start at just €1,900.

The Facette bangle by AENEA showcases thin slices of green amethyst under a sculptural structure in yellow gold, imitating the shape of a faceted gemstone, set with 1.41 carats of white diamonds (€9,800).

The Facette, above, and Twinkle collections, with a strong symmetry and bold use of negative space, give a very contemporary look with slices of precious stones set into golden cages. The Waves collection, below, combines the large volumes of undulating bands of gold with vibrantly coloured gemstones, while the Web family makes a feature of the wear and tear of everyday life. Gold is woven with rhodium-plated silver to create chunky jewels. As the black rhodium wears away, it creates a unique patina. “With wear, the jewels tell your story through each scratch and mark,” explains Costán. Should you be the more meticulous sort, AENEA will happily re-dip for you. And they offer a lifetime warranty against stones falling out thanks to rigorous stone-setting techniques executed through microscopes.

Set with vibrant green emeralds, the Waves bangle by AENEA features 19.03 carats of emeralds set into yellow gold with a silver back (€19,000).

More extravagant sorties into the world of design include the intricate City rings, which pack the architectural highlights of famous locations into the reduced dimensions of a ring. Or the Maggie & Rudi rings that celebrate Margot Fonteyn and Rudolph Nureyev, their dancers’ bodies stretched across the wrist or around the finger.  Or Flow with its invisibly set gems that ripple with the gentlest move. And I could go on, which is the beauty of AENEA, a little brand full of surprises. 

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